Fecundity is Down in the US - Infertility is Not the Culprit
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Fecundity rates are down. There are fewer babies born to younger US generations and it’s not just about infertility. In fact, it’s not about infertility or fertility at all.
It’s Not About Infertility OR Fertility
Family planning and declining birth rates are in the news, twice last week in the New York Times alone. One of those articles discussed how young adults in the U.S. are having fewer babies. The survey they were reporting on found that millennials and even Gen Z’ers are making the choice to have fewer children or are unsure if they will have children at all. Some of the most common reasons given by those surveyed include desire for more leisure time, that they currently don’t have a partner or that they are concerned about their future financial security.
Family Planning and Conceiving
The New York Times states in their article that “The vast majority of women in the United States still have children. But the most commonly used measure of fertility, the number of births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, was 60.2 last year, a record low. The total fertility rate — which estimates how many children women will have based on current patterns — is down to 1.8, below the replacement level in developed countries of 2.1.”
This actually correlates in an appropriate way with what we understand about fertility and family planning. As a young adult (your late teens, twenties and even early thirties), conceiving may be easier physiologically but that doesn’t correspond to being the best time, professionally or personally or emotionally. For a myriad of reasons, including those listed above, young adults are putting off their decision to start or have a family.
Reproductive and Family Building Facts for Women
What we do know from a reproductive and family building standpoint is that a woman’s fertility declines as she ages, starting in her early 20’s, with a sharp decline by the time she reaches her mid 30’s. When parenthood, especially motherhood is delayed, it’s crucial that those making decisions understand the diminishing returns of success with conceiving, carrying and giving birth to a healthy baby as they age.
One option for women who may not want children in the present time or who have a gut feeling that they may change their minds as they become older, is cryopreserving, or freezing, their eggs. (If there is a committed couple relationship, where one or more partner is on the fence about parenthood, embryo freezing is an option as well.)
Hedge Your Bets About Parenthood for Your Future
The same way you can plan for your future by saving for a home, a vacation or retirement, even if you are experiencing wanderlust presently, you can also preserve your fertility as an investment for your “future self”. In this way, you can put off the very challenging decision about whether or not you want to have children in the future and still retain the ability to use your frozen eggs to conceive when and if the timing is right.
We don’t and can’t really know what we want in the future, even when we are completely and absolutely sure. Crystal balls just don’t work that well! We sometimes surprise ourselves and change our minds, even about issues that we consider basic and fundamental- like wanting to parent or not. While freezing embryos or eggs doesn’t guarantee one a future family, it does provide a much stronger possibility for a family if your life view undergoes such a dramatic change.